Cast: Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan, Asin
Direction: Vipul Shah
Rating: * & 1/2
Staring at an undressed girl making love to a pole in public, Salman Khan’s Manjeet (nee Mannu) rightly grumbles, “The British built for us roads, a rail network, postal services... If they’d stayed on 20 years longer, they could’ve left us a night-life (and strip clubs as well).” Alas, that didn’t happen.
Yet, there’s a change in line out here from Vipul Shah’s last blockbuster Namaste London, a culturally uncomfortable ‘Purab Aur Paschim’ type patriotic film. Where the hero claims humble Indians to be better and bigger than Brits, because: We have 12 crore readers of newspapers and magazines, and the words ‘mother’ and ‘brother’ are derived from Sanskrit!
The narrative here is as regressively colonial. The hero, from a pind (a village), and his cool local friends, take a car-ride across some shiny touristy glitz. It’s made clear that the British capital is for Punjab still a dream. You know they’re looking Birmingham, talking Bhatinda (the audiences at both being the same).
The buddies make for a music group. The frontman Arjun (Ajay Devgn) aspires to perform at Wembley once: “Give me Wembley, give me Wembley,” he dementedly yelps. Wembley, their music promoter says, is the world’s largest stadium (it’s not). It’s also in fact a London neighbourhood where Indians, largely Gujarati in origin, live. The choice of venue, where the lead vocalist’s grandfather once lost his voice, and he must win back a family legacy, seems appropriate then.
This random Hindi pop group of theirs is a wider mystery. At their mere sight on stage, London screams. They pack up stadiums across European capitals, where giggly goris either go ga ga or go up to check, “Your place or mine?”. Himesh from Aap Ka Suroor would’ve appeared more realistic.
The trouble is, while Arjun has the dreams, Mannu has the talent. The global press jumps him for sound-bytes. Sun, the tabloid, despairs on its frontpage, “Bad Boy Mannu.” This casual village-boy steals both the thunder and the mentor’s girl (Asin).
So Ajay Devgn plays the quiet, brooding, jilted lover, flagellating himself in private with his leather belt. Salman is the carefree, vivacious one (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam). This is how hinterland ticket-holders would like to see both.
Don’t worry about the story-line. There is no writing, merely good locations and great lighting; wouldn’t shock me if it sort of lit up the producer’s balance sheet as well. Well.